RNLI Helen Blake

28th May 2005, 20:12
Life Boat Donated To RNLI Museum

The "Helen Blake" with some of the hands who helped re-furbished the ex Life-boat, Captain W. L. Hume, M.N.I. 2nd right, just prior to formal presentation to the RNLI museum in Chatham Dockyard.
Way back, around 1936, the then RNLI Boat Committee called for a new design of an inshore lifeboat, the result turned out to be a 28-ft single screw wooden craft known as `Harbour Class`, an order for ten of these boats was planned but only one ever reached the stage of being built, fully tried and tested then commissioned into service.
Built and launched in 1938 by the Cowes, Isle of Wight, boatyard, Groves & Gutteridge, Ltd; being conventional RNLI construction, double diagonal mahogany planking on solid grown oak frames, powered with a single Hyland petrol engine: A single mast supported a dipping lugsail, and fore-sail, with a massive pair of sweeps (oars) as a fail safe means of propulsion, I am quite convinced these were never used for real.
Helen Blake, as the boat was named, after the Lady who provided the £2400 cost of building, after undergoing rigorous builders and operational trials in the Solent, it was placed on station at Poolbeg, Dublin, and served continuously until sold out of service in 1958, with a fair record of lives saved: The new owner Col: Earle was the then Secretary of the RNLI, had the boat moved to Walmer Castle, re-engined with a Coventry Victor diesel, with plenty of local crew members to help, used for sea angling and leisure trips around the Downs and Dover areas, it proved to be a handy size for such activities.
A couple of years later a friend of the Col: approached him to find a suitable boat that she could use for ‘Deer Stalking’ by water, on the fore-shore of her estate in Morven, Argyll, Loch Aline and the Sound of Mull being the area where Deer were wont to swim considerable distances, the boat was only used for a couple of weeks each season otherwise kept in a custom built boat-house, fully maintained in pristine condition.
Mrs Abel-Smith, widow of the late Admiral Abel Smith, passed on and the boat lay unused for quite some time, her executors, by this time an Estate Company, could not justify retaining a boat on the books and decided to sell it, by which time I also had settled in a house in Glendaruel, near Loch Riddon, Argyll, and espied a tiny advert in the Oban Times for an ex Lifeboat named Sea Call, the name Helen Blake having been changed when sold from the RNLI, on reading the advert it looked as if it was an ex ships lifeboat that was being offered, the waters around the West Coast had vast numbers, and this particular one at a comparable price, one phone call convinced me that this was quite different, the shortened story being that I purchased said boat, sailed it to Ormidale on Loch Riddon, via the Crinan Canal, and enjoyed many pleasurable trips, caught enough fish to keep the local populace supplied, all around the Kyles of Bute area, idyllic cruising grounds.
In the fullness of time, upon being appointed the Liaison Officer for the RNLI, to be based at Cowes, we packed everything up, put the boat on a low loader and headed south, the boat landed up at her birth place, same yard and we even found a couple of retired older boat builders who had actually worked on her construction: It was very quickly established that I was not going to be able to use the boat, so after due negotiation with the yard and RNLI, I agreed to send the completely re-furbished Helen Blake, on long term loan, to the RNLI Museum at Bristol, which most regrettably closed down after a couple of years, happily a suitable place was found for all the boats at the Chatham Naval Dockyard heritage centre, where ON 809 – the RNLI Official Number – sits proudly as a centre piece, gleaming paintwork and highly polished varnish, well worth a visit if you happened to be near that establishment.

help ??? Posted photographs, which fell off....how to restore!!!
With thanks.........................WLH

29th May 2005, 02:19
Go to your original message and click on it as if you were going to read it
Down the bottom right hand corner click on the "edit" button.
Scroll down and use the "manage attachments" box and post the photo in the normal way.

Hope this answers your question